St George Illawarra admit they can’t prepare for exactly what Wests Tigers star Benji Marshall will throw at them in Saturday night’s blockbuster NRL preliminary final.
However Marshall’s New Zealand team-mate Jason Nightingale is confident the Dragons’ renowned defence can repel the Tigers and their attacking ace.
Marshall was the chief destroyer back in 2005 when Wests upset the Dragons under similar circumstances in a preliminary final for the ages at the Sydney Football Stadium.
Like this year, the Dragons enjoyed the week’s break in '05 and started as huge favourites, only for Marshall and the confident Tigers to spoil their party.
However, St George Illawarra shut out Wests 34-10 in round 16 this season, and Nightingale said that’s what his team will look back to, not the nightmares of '05.
“We hope to do what we did to them last time and work for each other,” Nightingale said.
"You’re going to miss tackles and last time we didn’t have our best defensive effort but we were there for each other covering up when they did make their line breaks.
"Obviously everyone has seen what Benji can do but that doesn’t mean you know how to defend (against) it.
“You never know exactly what he’s going to come up with, he obviously sticks to the game plan but sometimes that can go a bit off course and damage can be done. So obviously we’ll just have to be on our toes, there’s nothing you can really do to plan for exactly what Benji Marshall’s going to do.”
Pressure and expectation got the better of St George Illawarra so many times before, but Nightingale said they are coping and know exactly what’s at stake when they run out on Saturday night in front of an anticipated crowd of more than 65,000.
“Everyone knows the result of winning this game but until we get there it’s in our own hands and this week we have to turn up otherwise we don’t need to even think any further ahead of that,” he said.
"Obviously all the fans have been waiting a long time and they try and get in your ear a little bit but you’ve got to not worry too much about the questions they pose to you.
“I just say it’s all good in due time, we’ll worry about this week first.”